ARWIND Santos is one of the best players in the PBA - and hands-down among its most colorful personalities.
But for some reason, his highest and lowest moments come together.
Santos' finest hour in the PBA came when he won the league MVP award in the 2012-2013 season - his first after five bridesmaid finishes. He also made the All-Defensive Team for the seventh straight year and won his second Best Player of the Conference during the season.
But that one season is also remembered for that one incident on March 8, 2013 when Petron import Renaldo Balkman lost the plot during a game against Alaska when he fought teammates and coaches and choked Santos.
News of that incident was carried by the international media - and ultimate led to a lifetime ban for Balkman meted by then commissioner Chito Salud that was lifted several years later by now league chief Willie Marcial.
It was the same case last season when Santos, 38, became the oldest player in the Mythical Teams by making the second team after the Beermen won an unprecedented fifth Philippine Cup title and came close to a grand slam.
However, that outstanding San Miguel season was dampened by one incident that happened on August 14, 2019 when he was caught by the television cameras as well as the sharp lens of SPIN.ph photog Jerome Ascano directing a monkey taunt at TNT import Terrence Jones.
The wiry 6-2 forward apologized for the racial slur a day later but was fined P200,000 by the Commissioner's Office for the incident.
For some reason, the highest moments of Santos' basketball career always come with his lowest ones. And it extends to his college days.
The 2005 UAAP Finals is remembered not only because of Far Eastern University’s mastery of La Salle and Arwind Santos’ superb play in the series, but also for a controversial incident that marred Game One.
The Tamaraws swept the Green Archers in that finals series, capped by a 73-71 victory in Game Two on October 6. It was in this series where Santos stamped his class as one of the best collegiate players during that time when he won not just his second straight Season MVP but as well as the Finals MVP award.
FEU topped the elimination round with a 12-2 win-loss card, and eliminated University of the East, 78-57. The Tamaraws arranged a finals rematch against defending champion La Salle, which beat Ateneo in the other half of the Final Four.
Game One on September 29 saw the Tamaraws beat the Green Archers, 75-73, behind the heroics of Santos, who finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds, and scored the final five points of the match to seal the victory.
Santos drilled a triple to even the count, 73-73, and tipped in a Mark Isip miss with 5.5 seconds left to give the Tamaraws the upper hand. La Salle had one last chance to tie or even win Game One but JVee Casio missed a triple at the buzzer.
Most basketball fans, however, remembered that game for what happened after the buzzer sounded in Game One. During the customary handshake between both teams, La Salle assistant team manager Manny Salgado was caught on television hitting Santos in the back of the head.
The video showed Santos and La Salle star Joseph Yeo exchanging words. As he stepped in to break the two apart, Salgado sneaked in a hit to Santos' nape.
The UAAP acted quickly, releasing a statement saying it “decided to perpetually ban Mr. Salgado from personally watching all UAAP sports competitions in all venues thereof.”
Even prior to the decision, Salgado apologized for the controversy while La Salle condemned the incident.
When the series resumed, Santos looked unfazed as he picked up where he left off in Game One. He tallied 14 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks in his final game in college to lead the Tamaraws to the championship.
Interviewed years later, the Angeles City-born PBA star said he considered that 2005 championship as the highest point of his college career.
But that early, Santos' biggest moment was already marred by controversy.